Denial takes many forms; I think I’m pretty good at most of them.
When I’m feeling sick, I tell myself and others, “I’m fine.” At other times, when there is nothing wrong with me, I am just as likely to deny my good health. I focus on and magnify any little ache or irregularity, until I’ve convinced myself that I’m mortally ill. Until someone asks; then I’ll say, “No, I’m fine.”
I almost always deny being “mad” when asked. “I’m not mad, I’m hurt,” was my usual response to my husband’s question. To that, he’d often wink at our young daughters and say, “Ooooh, Mommy’s really mad!” I will admit to being hurt, confused, upset, frustrated, embarrassed or discouraged, but deny being mad. Even though all of those other feelings generally manifest in feeling…exactly…MAD.
Sometimes…no, often…denial is just contrariness. When someone complains about the weather, I find it impossible to not present an opposing point of view. “Oh, but we really needed this rain,” I’ll say. Or, “But isn’t the snow so beautiful?” On the other side of this issue, when I am talking to my sister Brenda, who always looks for the blessings in any event, no matter how devastating or disastrous, I fight the urge to expound on just exactly how horrible it really is. When my friend Chris assures me, as she always does, that “it’s all going to work out just fine,” I always want to deny it. I imagine taking her by the shoulders, shaking her slightly, looking into her eyes and asking, “When, WHEN have things EVER worked out just fine??”
Today, though, I’m thinking more of self-denial. I’m not very good at it. As I set up my calendar for this year, and reviewed past years, it was clear that I’ve been a big failure at losing the twenty pounds that has been on my list of goals for at least the last five years. That’s because I am not very good at denying myself.
Low-carb? I can think of a hundred reasons why I can’t do a low-carb diet. It’s expensive! It takes too much planning! It eliminates all comfort and joy from every meal! And, no matter how weak my logic, clearly I have never succeeded in following through with a low-carb diet plan.
Smaller portions? I hate limiting portions. It reminds me of being poor. It puts me in a constant state of depravation and dissatisfaction. As a skinny kid growing up in a big family on a farm, there was plenty of food, but also lots of hungry people around the table. I never had a problem with weight, and could eat whatever I wanted, as long as no one else got to it first. Now, without competition, and having lost the ability to eat whatever I want without gaining weight, portion size is a problem. Still, I hate the idea.
No sugar? I thought cutting out sugar would be an easy form of self-denial. I prefer savory to sweet. I don’t sweeten my coffee or drink soda. I could pass on desserts. Possible. Until I started implementing that diet plan into my life…and started reading labels. If you’re avoiding sugar, labels are a big, shocking eye-opener. And, a piece of chocolate takes on the status of air…or water. I don’t remember how or why this particular plan failed, but I’m sure self-denial was at the root of it.
This year, I’m trying something new. Intermittent Fasting promises to regulate insulin, which offers many other benefits, including weight loss. On the program I’m on, I can eat every day, but only for an eight-hour window out of every 24-hour period. I fast, except for noon to eight PM. Knowing my spoiled self as I do, this one ticks a lot of boxes. During the “eating window,” I can eat what I want. No need to cut out potatoes or pasta, count calories, or eliminate dessert. Within reason, the quantity of food is not restricted. I was never a big “breakfast person” anyway.
The problem, and I knew I’d find a problem, is that during the fasting period I can only have black coffee, plain tea, or water. Which made me realize how very much I love love LOVE cream in my coffee. Which underlined the fact that morning coffee is a big, important and cherished part of my life. The other problem is this: intermittent fasting is not a “diet,” but rather a lifestyle change, So, that means this is long term. Forever. That took a little getting-used-to. I had to work up to it.
I toyed with giving up coffee altogether. No! I didn’t want to do that! I told myself I could never get used to black coffee. I experimented with it one day, then went back to morning coffee with cream. I chastised myself for being so self indulgent that I couldn’t make any sacrifices at all. Finally, I just dove in.
Today, day four of my new lifestyle, I can report that, for the most part, I don’t feel deprived. On the first day, I felt hungry at noon, so I made lunch. On the following days, a piece of fruit mid-afternoon was all I wanted until suppertime. I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m starving myself; I don’t feel that I’m over-eating at dinner to make up for meals lost. I have plenty of energy. I don’t wake up hungry. I’m hoping to, as time goes by, be able to report on more good outcomes of this lifestyle.
Meanwhile, I am sipping on a cup of black coffee. No delicious creamy flavor; a little bitter. Don’t worry. I’m FINE!